"Boy, this is a great city," says Woody Allen, lounging on a park bench that overlooks Manhattan's East River and the 59th Street Bridge. "I don't care what anybody says. It's really a knockout, you know?"
The scene comes from Allen's 1979 film "Manhattan," an enduring, romantic portrait of the director's hometown, "a town that existed in black and white and pulsated to the great tunes of George Gershwin."
It's a time capsule of a bygone New York, long before the soundtrack was changed on Sept. 11, 2001.
On Sunday, New York cinemas, museums, concert halls, galleries and theaters will abound in cultural events held in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of that day. The happenings vary from screenings of old movies such as "Manhattan" to grand Lincoln Center symphonies to humble one-man shows. But they all seek to use the arts — a bedrock, still, of New York life — to share in reflection, to inspire an emotion, to add just a modicum of healing to wounds too fresh to be 10 years old.
Karen Brooks Hopkins, president of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, says there are many institutions that "want to be gathering places for people to be able to express their feelings, be together and have an emotional connection."
"A great cultural institution's role," she says, "is always to react to the public and react to events that stir the public."
BAM, as it did on the first anniversary of Sept. 11, will screen "Manhattan" for free on Sunday. It also will later in the month host the Kronos Quartet performing "Awakenings," a meditation on 9/11.
From Chelsea galleries to Broadway theaters, the cultural landscape of the city will be busy Sunday. It already has been in preparation for the anniversary, its publishing industry churning out books and commemorative magazines like the New Yorker's special edition and its media readying for extensive television coverage from the World Trade Center site.
"Music After," a 15-hour-long concert featuring performances by New York musicians including Philip Glass, Steve Reich, David Bowie, David Byrne, Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson and Elliot Carter, will be held for free in SoHo. The Wordless Music Orchestra will perform at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and will be streamed live on npr.org and wqxr.org.
At St. Patrick's Cathedral, the New York Choral Society will perform, among other works, Harry Belafonte's "Turn the World Around." The Symphony Space will present a free commemorative concert along with selected poetry readings. On the Lower East Side, jazz saxophonists Joe McPhee, Rob Brown and Oliver Lake, among others, will perform "From the Ashes: 10 Years Later."
At Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday night, the New York Philharmonic will perform Mahler's "Resurrection." (It will be broadcast live by WQXR and WNYC and be aired Sunday on PBS.)
On Sunday, Lincoln Center will host "A Concert of Commemoration" with Karl Jenkins' "The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace." The event has been coordinated as a "global sing for peace," with choruses around the world performing "The Armed Man" throughout September.
"Music has this emotive force that can move people and bring them all together," Jenkins says. "It has a healing force and a healing power and certainly a spiritual power. And I think that will be evident on this occasion."
At the Public Theater, "Sweet and Sad," a new play by Tony Award-winner Richard Nelson, will open. Taking place on Sept. 11, 2011, the play continues the playwright's series focused on "the immediate present."
There are numerous other Sept. 11-themed plays in off-Broadway theaters, including Rehana Lew Mirza's "Barriers," Steve Fetter's "A Blue Sky Like No Other" and Jonas Hassen Khemiri's Obie Award-winning "Invasion!"
On Friday, Broadway was to collectively mark the anniversary by singing "New York, New York" in Times Square, as cast members and musicians did in the days after 9/11.
Lincoln Center will host a special screening of Spike Lee's "25th Hour," with the director in attendance. Lee integrated 9/11 into the film, including opening credits that feature the floodlights that shined from the trade center site.
The Museum of the Moving Image will screen "Man on Wire," the Oscar-winning documentary about French high-wire artist Philippe Petit's wire walk between the tops of the twin towers in 1974.
Located on the edge of the downtown zone that was closed after Sept. 11, the Film Forum, New York's bastion of repertory film, was forced to close for several days after the event. At the time, it was running an "NYPD" series of movies featuring New York's finest, including "French Connection" and "The Taking of Pelham 123."
To commemorate the 10th anniversary, the Film Forum is running the series again, in tribute to the New York Police Department. On Sunday, it will screen Sidney Lumet's "Serpico," Jules Dassin's "The Naked City" and the lesser-known "Pay or Die!" with Ernest Borgnine as early NYPD organized crime-fighter Joe Petrosino.
"We don't do this kind of thing a lot, commemorating," says Bruce Goldstein, repertory director of the Film Forum. "But 9/11 was just too memorable a day, too traumatic a day not to recognize it some way, in the way that we do best, which is showing films."
In Bryant Park, a tribute will be held with empty chairs representing each New York victim of the terror attacks. As part of an exhibition by artist Sheryl Oring, several typists will record visitors' thoughts about Sept. 11. (There are many memorials and tributes being held around the city, including "Tribute in Light," two beams of light that will echo the twin towers.)
The Met is exhibiting "The 9/11 Peace Story Quilt," which Faith Ringgold designed, collaborating with New York students, ages 8 to 19. The New Museum, free on Sunday, will feature Spanish artist Elena del Rivero's installation. It's modeled after her downtown apartment, which filled with debris after the attacks.
MoMA PS1, one of the nation's oldest and largest nonprofit contemporary art institutions, will open the exhibit "September 11" with 70 works from artists such as Diane Arbus, Christo and Yoko Ono that examine how 9/11 has "altered the ways in which we see and experience the world." The Brooklyn Museum is holding the exhibit "Ten Years Later: Ground Zero Remembered."
There will be many photography exhibits, including one at the International Center of Photography; Joel Meyerowitz's "Aftermath"; Joe McNally's portraits of 9/11 heroes, "Faces of Ground Zero: 10 Years Later"; Camilo Jose Vergara's decades-long study of the World Trade Center, "The Twin Towers and the City"; former NYPD detective John Botte's photographs; and many more.
Sarah Skaggs' "9/11 Dance — A Roving Memorial" will bring meditative choreography to several locations around the city.
There are, of course, many, many other events across the city Sunday. And the gatherings won't be over then, either. On Monday, comedians Kristen Schaal and Kurt Braunohler will host the second annual 9/11 memorial puppy-hugging parade in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn.
As the narrator says in the great old Dassin movie: "There are eight million stories in the naked city." On the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, there will be at least that many.